New Zealand has so many outstanding places to visit that it is difficult to choose among them. We know that
your vacation time is both brief and valuable. Our recommendations for the
best places to visit will help you find the best places to visit during your vacation in
Be sure to note that the seasons in the Southern Hemisphere are the opposite of
the Northern Hemisphere. During our summer, the Kiwis are experiencing
winter. So if you want to ski in Queenstown, July and August can be the
heart of the season. If you are not a skier, don't let the concept of winter
stop you from taking your summer vacation in New Zealand, since the snow
usually stays at the higher elevations.
A trip to New Zealand should cover the country's two major islands,
which are named the North
Island and the South Island. Although both islands are interesting and
filled with adventure, we
recommend that you spend the majority of your time on the South Island.
In our opinion,
the South Island is pretty close to paradise, but the North Island does
offer fine sites and an amazing wine country.
Unfortunately, a catastrophic earthquake savaged Christchurch, on the South
Island in February,
2011. Numerous deaths were reported and Central Christchurch was
destroyed for all practical purposes. The effect that this calamity
were devastating, but rebuilding has put the city back on the map.
We have created our New Zealand travel map
you the detailed locations of the Best Places to Visit in New Zealand.
The base map is a Google product overlaid with our recommendations.
The New Zealand map was not designed for navigation, but is does have
satellite image background if you click the satellite button on the map
The Lord Of the Rings and The Hobbit
For those of you who are fantasy fans, significant
portions of the epic movie trilogy Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit were filmed
in New Zealand. In the North Island town of Matamata you can find the
sets used to film the village of Hobbiton for both movies. See this
for more details.
If you are really a fan of these books and associated
movies, Google "Lord of the Rings and
the South Island of New Zealand" to find the companies that offer tours of
the Lord Of The Rings filming locations. Queenstown and other areas of
the South Island were backdrops for much of the movie, although later
Deluxe Middle Earth Filming Locations Lord of the Rings Trilogy Helicopter Tour
From Viator Tours
Names in Teal are regions/areas
of New Zealand.
Island is sparsely populated and brimming with outdoor adventure. You may
see landscapes and scenery types that you have not experienced before, packaged in the most
beautiful and, sometimes, surreal environments.
One popular way to see the South
Island is a drive that starts at Christchurch (see earthquake information
under Christchurch heading), heads to Mt. Cook,
down to Queenstown, over to Fiordlands NP, up through Westland NP, and crossing
to the North Island using the ferry from Picton
For information on the Interislander Ferry that connects the islands, visit this
Am alternative path is to start your tour of the South Island at Picton after arrival in
Auckland or Wellington on the North Island.)
Queenstown, sited on the shore of beautiful Lake Wakatipu,
is surrounded by the luscious beauty of a mountain chain known
as the Remarkables (and, indeed, they are remarkable). The town is the focal point for a large
and diverse recreational area.
Queenstown is a place where you can "sit and
think" or participate in various outdoor activities, some of them quite
unique. The shopping is somewhat limited. Cultural attractions are
relatively sparse, but season events are quite good.
We doubt that you will tire of
the view of the Lake at Queenstown and suggest that you take one of the many
cruises available. We recommend a voyage on the TSS Earnslaw, an
older, coal-fired steamship that somehow fits the area like a comfortable glove.
The Earnslaw is usually in for maintenance once a year that lasts from
May through June, although dates vary.
For other attractions in Queenstown, visit the area's
official tourism website.
We think that cruising
Milford Sound (a glacial fjord/fiord) is worth the cost of the trip to New Zealand. The
Sound's scenery is spectacular - do not miss it!
Milford Sound is part of the Fiordlands National Park, so see the
links above for more details on visiting.
Most rental car agreements prohibit you from driving your
rental on the road to Milford Sound. The Milford Road is subject
to avalanches and landslides and is often closed on short notice.
We recommend you sign-up for a tour and leave the driving to someone
else. For information on the Road to Milford Sound, as well as
travel conditions visit this
site. Tours are infrequently cancelled due to rain, ice and other
difficult driving conditions.
Driving the west coast of the
South Island is highly recommended due to its dramatic, breathtaking and
From south to north, you will pass through rainforest
and then find yourself exploring active glaciers. The scenery is
spectacular. The driving can be challenging, but is well worth the
See the New Zealand Department of Conservation website for
information on the surrounding National Park.
Glacier/Franz Joseph Glacier
See either or both of these
glaciers. They are the most visited attractions in the Westland NP
and relatively close to the main highway, although they have receded
over the past decade.
Abel Tasman National Park
If you have time, this park in
features a beautiful coastline and an interesting coastal track for
Visit the New Zealand Department of Conservation's website for more
Due to the presence of its International Airport,
Christchurch is the starting point for many visits to the South Island.
Christchurch is the largest city on the South Island and the second largest
in New Zealand.
In February, 2011 Christchurch suffered a devastating earthquake and
aftershocks that resulted in a number of fatalities. In addition, a significant
portion of the central city was destroyed by the seismic episode.
The extent of the damage was catastrophic, but rebuilding has put the city
on the road to recovery.
Christchurch sits almost in the
center of the South Island's Canterbury region, a beautiful area that includes
coastline, mountains and the scenic Canterbury Plain.
- You may want to take a look at the
official website of
Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism
for a detailed list of the attractions available in this interesting
section of the South Island.
If you have time, head out to the
Banks Peninsula and visit the village of
A small, colonial, coastal town, situated on a
collapsed volcanic cone that gives the area a unique and scenic setting.
The drive from Christchurch to the Banks Peninsula is a delight but you may need to slow to allow the
sheep to use the road. Look for the bakery when you enter town, the breads are
Although not an official website,
Akaroa.com provides good detail on the
attractions and activities available in this scenic, coastal area.
The North Island is the economic and
political focus of New Zealand. While it does not have scenery
comparable to the
South Island, it does offer a unique culture, interesting cities, and you will
find the Maori
Heartland at Rotorua.
Rotorua, with its geothermal
hotspots, beckons to the tourist, as it must have attracted the Maoris over
millennia ago. The city is fairly touristy, but the Rotorua region is
worth a visit.
Rotoruanz.com , the area's official tourism website, for more details on
Lake Taupo is the center of a
volcanic area noted for its geothermal activity. The lake itself sits in a
collapsed crater (caldera) and provides good fishing and great scenery. The region between
Lake Taupo and Rotorua is riddled with geysers, and hot springs that make
for interesting touring
See the website of the marketing agency of the
Great Lake Taupo region for extensive details on visiting this
Due to the presence of its
international airport, Auckland is often the beginning or the end of a
vacation in New Zealand. If you arrive here, tour the city,
perhaps sail to one of the nearby islands, while
spending some time to let the jet lag wear off.
If you need a "city fix" after too much time in the country, Auckland
is a great city in a pleasant setting.
official tourism website of Auckland for detailed information on
New Zealand's capital offers good
restaurants and a ferry terminal to the South Island.
The official tourism website of
Wellington has impressive details on events, attractions and
accommodations in the Wellington area.
for everyone, Ninety Mile Beach is heaven for those who like to drive along
the ocean (not to mention driving on the beach). Located at the top-end of the North Island, Ninety Mile Beach is part of
the Northland, an area of New Zealand that is compelling due to its pristine
- There are several areas of the North Island that are well-known for
viticulture and the country's wines are slowly gaining an international
following. Perhaps the best of the wine-growing regions are along the
coast in Auckland, Waikato Bay, the Bay of Plenty and Hawkes Bay.
- See this
unofficial website for more information on the wines of New Zealand.
The official tourism website for New Zealand is
New Zealand 100% Pure . The site provides additional details on
visiting the best places to visit in New Zealand that we recommend, along with
details on towns and attractions that are not on our list.
For county facts on New Zealand, or travel information such as laws for
driving, medical treatment issues, personal safety and more, visit the U.S.
State Department's page on
New Zealand. We recommend the State Department's travel information to
anyone planning a trip to New Zealand.
If you need information about another travel destination, try
Destination Guide Index
or Googling ThereArePlaces.